After WWII, Gianni Agnelli had to rebuild Fiat at 24. After Gianni’s death, his grandson John Elkann faced the same task himself at 28.
Since 2004, John Elkann’s first decade at the helm has been an unrelenting series of daily challenges to keep Italy’s fabled, 118-year-old industrial group globally competitive. Descriptions like “unassuming” and “hard working” explain his steady progression as a decisive leader in the family tradition. To turn Fiat, the ailing automaker around, he hired CEO Sergio Marchionne and engaged in a challenging plan: together, they separated Fiat’s auto business from capital goods activities and forged an alliance with Chrysler during the 2009 global recession. In January 2014, Fiat acquired full ownership of Chrysler. John Elkann announced publicly that Exor, the $13 bn diversified investment company the Agnell Family controls, will support the new 5-year plan of the newly formed global automotive group, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), listed in both the NY and Milan Stock Exchange.
In 2016, John Elkann led the move of both Fiat and Exor from Italy to The Netherlands to make use of a Dutch shareholdering structure that gives more voting rights to long-term shareholders. Exor’s diversification into long-term investments continues with holdings in The Economist (43%), Ferrari (23%), CNH Industrial (27%), and recently acquired PartnerRe (100%).
John Elkann is hands-on as Vice Chairman of the Giovanni Angelli Foundation, promoting initiatives and research in education. What’s next for the father of three fluent in four languages? They’ll come in handy as FCA puts in place its global development plan from its new London base, targeting 7 million vehicles annual sales by 2018.